Ever since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a coup in 2017, his erstwhile lieutenants have been seizing every opportunity to tell Zimbabweans what an amazing job they are doing to transform their lives.
Besides the sunshine journalism in the state-controlled media where a picture of rapid economic transformation in the last three years is painted, government mandarins are all over social media extolling the strides made by the “second republic” in resuscitating the economy.
The World Bank in a new report last week, however, exposed in dramatic detail the difference between reality and fiction when it comes to Zimbabwe’s economic trajectory in recent months.
Titled, ‘Overcoming Economic Challenges, Natural Disasters and the Pandemic: Social and Economic Impacts’, the report says the number of extremely poor Zimbabweans grew by 1.3 million last year, pushing the figure of citizens living on the fringes to 7.9 million.
World Bank surveys done last year showed that nearly 500 000 Zimbabwean households had at least one member, who lost his or her job, the report says.
Less than a quarter of the Zimbabweans classified as extremely poor received food aid in June last year and this share dropped to 3% of rural households in September 2020, the World Bank added.
The dire economic situation had a far reaching impact on the government’s ability to fund social services with health and education bearing the brunt of the crisis.
For example, the World Bank found that only 9% of school-going children in rural areas were reported as having used mobile applications for learning during pandemic-related school closures, compared with 40% for urban children.
It also concluded that institutional maternal deaths increased by 29% last year compared to 2018, while deliveries at home increased by 30%.
The grim situation painted in the report is the reality that confronts ordinary Zimbabweans every day.
Without underplaying the devastation wrought by Covid-19 on the economy since last year and the natural disasters such as cyclones, Zimbabwe’s economic problems are largely man-made.
From policy inconsistencies and corruption to scorched earth politics that give the country a pariah status and scare away potential investors, the problems predate the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
To fix the problems identified in the World Bank brief, Mnangagwa’s government needs to introspect and begin to implement the badly needed reforms he promised Zimbabweans when he took over from Mugabe.
The self-praise and propaganda about a rebirth that the majority of Zimbabweans are not seeing or experiencing won’t bring about the economic turn-around that we are all yearning for.